by Tenley Steike, Mountain Family Patient

Growing up as a type 1 diabetic since age 8, I never thought that I would have to deal with the stresses of finding affordable health care.  Doctors and nurses who help me guide the treatment of my disease and proper prescriptions have been integral to helping me stay healthy and lead a balanced life.  Now age 26, I think my story is similar to that of many others in the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado. 

Before moving to Colorado, I grew up in Minneapolis. My family took trips to Montana and out west, and I fell in love with the mountains. I told my parents that as soon as I graduated from college, I was going to move to the mountains. I got a job in Vail and worked as an assistant wrangler on a ranch and then worked at Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming.

My parents were urging me to settle down and find a job that provided (affordable) healthcare, as I was still on my parent’s health insurance.  I found a job in Aspen and worked at the Gant Condominiums while trying to figure out how to pursue my passions for photography and design.  As I was getting close to age 26 and would soon get kicked off my parents’ health insurance, I knew I had many bills: car payments, housing, student loans, several others, and most importantly, bills regarding my health.  Then I started to work as the Director of Marketing for Engel and Völkers, a prominent real estate firm, but I could not afford the health care plan they offered. 

As a diabetic and someone with several other healthcare needs, there are multiple factors I had to think about before deciding on a health care plan. First and foremost, I had to consider the cost of prescriptions because without those I will die. Insulin is the most important, and for some reason, the most expensive: for a one-month supply of insulin, it would cost me $908.32 at retail price. The second most important factor when deciding on a plan is coverage of visits to the clinic. I have an abundance of doctors’ visits each year, pertaining to not only diabetes, but also women’s health, mental health, labs, dental, and the list goes on.

Health insurance is not cheap. Although it is common to have a deductible with health insurance, after doing the math and figuring out my monthly medical costs (which would have been around $13,000 per year), it was likely I was not going to meet my deductible until the year was nearly over; I asked myself, what am I really paying a health care company for? There was nothing I could find that was tailored to my needs.

As I expressed several of my worries and frustrations with my peers, I became excited when everyone was ranting and raving about Colorado being the first state to cap insulin costs at $100 per vile, per month. While it may have been risky, I even considered going without health insurance. If that were truly the case, my yearly spending on health-related payments would be cut nearly in half. However, after doing research on this Colorado law further, I found out headlines were merely stretching the truth, or only giving the public half of it: the capping of insulin prices was only available to those with health insurance, bringing me back to square one.

My mother and I started to explore alternative options for healthcare, and thankfully, she stumbled upon Health Solutions, which had just been launched at that time. Health Solutions is not an insurance product, but a membership program designed to provide members access to medical, behavioral, and dental services within Mountain Family Health Centers’ scope of care.

The most compelling reason to join Health Solutions was everything they offered, meeting my specific needs: general doctors, behavioral health, women’s health, dental, and labs. The best part? These visits are unlimited, there are no deductibles, no co-pays, and the cost of labs (which are also expensive) are covered – for $135 per month!

My first doctor visit at Mountain Family was in February. I was so impressed with the care at Glenwood Springs, I walked away in tears because I was relieved to have so many questions answered, and the kind, humble, attentiveness of their staff was unbelievable. My first appointment lasted nearly two hours, as I also consulted with the Outreach and Enrollment Team to enroll for financial assistance. In addition, as a federally qualified health center, Mountain Family can access medications and pharmaceuticals at reduced prices. My prescriptions (except for insulin) were called in right after my visit with Dr. Aguirre, and I was able to pick them up the same day. To make it even better, I was accepted into their Medical Assistance Program and I now receive my most expensive medications (insulin) at no cost – AMAZING!

I was so thrilled with Health Solutions and Mountain Family that I recommended it right away to a colleague (as well as several others) who urgently needed to see a doctor.  They were able to make a same-day appointment; my colleague was helped and was jumping for joy.

The bottom line is that the staff at Health Solutions and Mountain Family are incredibly attentive. They go above and beyond for their patients and care so much for every person in need. It has given me peace of mind, and I wholeheartedly recommend Health Solutions to every person seeking affordable health care in this valley!

To find out more information on how to stay healthy and spend less, call Health Solutions at 970-456-1233 or find more information online at https://www.mountainfamily.org/health-solutions/